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EUROPEAN JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW

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Kate Avery
Going for 3000m gold

22 July 2009

The Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland team will draw on previous strong performances at European Junior Championships to inspire them in their chase for medals this week, with the championships taking place from Thursday 23 until Sunday 26 July in Novi-Sad, Serbia.

The team have an impressive record at recent championships – and with nearly a dozen team members ranked in the top three in European U20 rankings in 2009, it will be hoped they can make the conversion to medals and top eight places.

Recent GB&NI winners of European Junior Championships have made successful transition to senior level, showing that the top performers in Novi Sad are realistic prospects to make the grade for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Recent Euro gold medalists Craig Pickering (100m 2005); Alex Nelson (200m 2007); Greg Rutherford (Long Jump 2005); Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon 2005) all progressed on to senior major championships in recent years.

In the 2009 team, topping the rankings with ease entering the competition Kate Avery (Shildon) will contest the heats 3000m on the opening days, whilst number one decathlete Daniel Gardiner (Leeds City) will begin day one of his gruelling two day multi events campaign alongside team mates Ashley Bryant (Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) and David Guest (Bridgend)

Avery’s rank is a common theme across the endurance events, with Brits featuring strongly in pre-event build up, and teammate Beth Potter (Victoria Park, City of Glasgow) strengthens their position with second place in the 3000m rankings.

Other athletes currently sitting top three in Europe are: Chris Clarke (Marshall Milton Keynes in the 400m; Lawrence Clarke (Windsor Slough Eton and Hounslow) 110m hurdles; Niall Flannery (Gateshead) 400m hurdles; Niall Brooks (Sale) 800m; Simon Lawson (Cardiff) 10,000m; Charlotte Purdue (Aldershot Farnham & District) 5000m; and Louise Webb (Team Southampton) 3000m steeplechase.

There are also the usual relay medal opportunities with the GB and NI team sending strong squads for the men’s 4x400m and men’s and women’s 4x100m races.

Although missing Ashlee Nelson and the World Youth double gold medallist Jodie Williams, the tight-knit sprint squad of Emily Diamond, Torema Dorsett, Rachel Giwa and Shaunna Thompson look slick and have the potential to muscle in on podium positions.

Equally the men’s squad of Eugene Ayanful, Junior Ejehu, Max Galliers, Andrew Robertson, Olafunmi Sobodu and Deji Tobais, have been working together since last summer’s World Junior championships alongside sprint relay coach Harry King.

Aviva Performance Advisor for UKA and former Olympic relay gold medalist Jason Gardener was involved in their final training session prior to flying out to Novi Sad and was confident both squads would make an impact.

“The men’s team are looking like a very good working unit,” he revealed. “I saw them about this time last year and you can see how much they have grown in confidence with their skills and how they work with each other since then.

“When you’re new to each other it is difficult as you have to bond quickly, but these guys have got on with it and I’m expecting good things from them this week.

“The girls have a unique situation – they too have to bond quickly – it’s a small team with no reserves, but what I saw in their last session was that they are very efficient and well drilled, and they’ve got characters in there – which always helps a team to come together.”

Whilst GB&NI can boast a range of impressive former winners over the sprints and relays at European Junior level, Gardener’s name is conspicuous by its absence in the list of winners. The reason?

“In 1993 I missed out on the championships, the last relay spot went to Julian Golding. I was a 10.5 runner and I was gutted to miss out,” he said recalling the frustration.

“But I turned it around and in 1994 ran 10.25s went to the World Juniors and came second. If you don’t perform how you want to you need to show ‘bouncebackability’ and I used the Europeans to spur me on to World Junior success the following year.”

Words of wisdom from Gardener - with half the team still eligible for the 2010 World Junior Championships in Canada.

www.uka.org.uk will be featuring reports from each session throughout this week.